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Illegal searches alleged by three in New Mexico

We recently wrote an article detailing an offensive and potentially illegal set of searches conducted upon a man in New Mexico after officers witnessed him failing to come to a complete stop at a stop sign outside a Wal-Mart store. As we noted, officers developed a suspicion that the man was carrying drugs in his colon, and conducted not only an anal cavity search—as per the warrant—but also an x-ray, three enemas and a colonoscopy, which were not part of the search warrant. All of this was done over and against the man’s protests.

The man is now suing the officers who arrested him—all were part of the Border Drug Task Force—for conducting an unreasonable search and seizure. Only days after that incident, another New Mexico resident alleged that he was subjected to an anal cavity search and x-rays last year without his consent. No drugs were found in either case. In addition, a third individual has alleged that she was subjected to anal and vaginal searches, as well as x-rays and scans, by border patrol agents, all without a warrant.

The legal issues surrounding searches like this are serious. Because no drugs were found in any of these cases, the only recourse for the victims is to file a civil rights lawsuit against the officers. In cases where drugs are found and criminal charges pressed, illegal searches can be met with the exclusionary rule. Under that rule, defendants are protected from illegal searches by the ability to block evidence obtained as a result of the illegal search. Application of the rule can often significantly weaken a criminal case. That said, judges don’t always apply it in cases where the violation was part of the “war on drugs.” That’s a whole other issue.

The exclusionary rule can be a valuable tool for criminal defendants, but it is important to work with an experienced attorney who understands the rule, its exceptions, and how to best frame the case so that the best possible outcome results.

Source: Huffington Post, “Anal Probes And the Drug War: A Look At The Ethical And Legal Issues,” Radley Balko, November 12, 2013. 

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